Did I mention that I was going to do a series of memorable people who have touched my life?

The following is the second one;

My son and I were new in the small mountain community. This was not a town containing magnificent buildings or churches with steeples. This was a simple farming community of immense natural beauty which attracted residential artists and writers. During the day, busloads of camera-toting tourists came and went.


We started attending church services in a community hall. Leading the hymns from a raised platform was a small choir of about six or eight people. They looked conservative/respectable in their Sunday best. Except for the man at the end on the right. Each Sunday he was there wearing a plaid shirt, his untamed tresses sweeping over his shoulders. His chest long salt and pepper beard seeming to move with the flow of the music as the fervor in his strong bass voice dominated those around him Although his shirt changed from week to week, his headgear did not. He had an apparent attachment to the small red Tibetan hat which never left his head.

From the first day I was curious about him. He had an easy smile and eyes that seemed simultaneously kind and impish.

After each service I noticed he and his wife left the parking lot in a battered old dust covered sedan.

As the weeks passed he began paying more attention to my son. My son has a mild intellectual disability and I always warmed to anyone who was kind to him.

By this stage I could hardly contain my curiosity about this enigma of a man. He looked like such an over the hill hippie –not someone one would expect to find in church, yet he knew his bible intimately. That word then hit me. Intimate. When he spoke to you – to anyone-there was such an absorption in his attention that his words, his presence felt as if you were sharing a great intimacy.

And why would I not expect to find him in a church? I knew better than to judge a book by its cover. Belated brain-flash!  He looked like Jesus. Well sort of! Maybe a bit more portly for I knew Jesus was slender from all that walking. And I wasn’t sure that Jesus would have had such a twinkle in his eyes.

As Mick seemed to seek out my son after each meeting, I began befriending his wife, Ursula. She was a petite woman- small but wiry with prematurely sun dried skin. She told me that she worked on their avocado farm from sunup to sundown. She loved nature and gardening. I jumped at the chance to visit when she invited us to come around the following week.


As we drove into Mick’s property we were awestruck by the beauty of it. Eleven acres of pristine lawns and trees nestled around the rim of the Columbia Gorge, an extinct volcano.  We spotted two neat houses. The place was lush with flowers and shrubs and I could see a couple of large green-houses which I would later learn housed orchids. There was no sign of either Mick or Ursula on the grounds or in the houses. I began calling Mick’s name and soon I heard a distant response.

“Down here. Down here.” It was Ursula. “Grab the end of that rope would you – and haul me up.” I couldn’t believe the sound came from down the steep drop-off.

I am deathly afraid of heights but I edged towards the rim of the crater and peered over the edge. A dislodged stone fell to the bottom, way, way below and I shivered. Surprisingly, the craters steep surface was a tangle of exotic ferns and palms. As I peered cautiously down I once again heard Ursula call out and then I saw her head appear from under a fern.

“What are you waiting for?” she yelled “Pull the rope.” Indeed, I could now see a rope that was wound around her waist with the other end attached to a nearby tree.

“Quick Chip” I ordered “Haul Ursula up.”

Soon she scrambled over the edge, dusty and sweating.

“Hell, Ursula,” I said “Aren’t you nervous about climbing down there?”

“Naw! How else would those things get planted?”

As I shook my head I heard the sounds of an approaching tractor and soon Mick came into view, waving a welcome.

By the time we left that day, Mick had offered Chip a job working with him on their beautiful little farm and a new phase in our life had started.


Because of his disability, Chip is unable to drive, but Mick saved me a trip by coming to the house to pick him up each day. At the end of the first day Chip hurried in after work as I heard Mick drive off.

“How did it go, Pet?” I asked.

“Good Mum” he replied” And do you know what? Mick isn’t scared of snakes. On the way home we saw a big snake across the road. Mick stopped the car. He jumped out and made the other cars stop while he picked the snake up and moved it to safety.” I could see Chip had found a hero. I was glad because he missed my husband who had died a couple of years earlier.

As the weeks passed, Mick fell into the habit of stopping for a drink on our verandah at the end of the day. I looked forward to our chats as we relaxed and let our worries float away. Mick talked about the adventures he and Ursula had shared and his plans for the future. He was a dreamer and had several. Occasionally I shared my experiences about my days dancing in Asia and during the Vietnam War.  We were becoming good friends – the three of us.

I began to feel guilty that Ursula was never with us but whenever I called and asked her to join us she replied that she was tired and going to bed, adding that Mick’s dinner was in the oven. Besides, although she didn’t drink, she did not seem to mind Mick unwinding on my verandah. And so the pattern continued. Many a night we enjoyed the stars and a brilliant full moon in silence, just soaking up the serenity of such beauty.

Mick’s enigma never faded. I was surprised to learn that he came from a wealthy family and indeed, he was still a partner in the family’s manufacturing business. His brothers were suit wearing businessmen who operated the corporation but after a short stint in the business, Mick had rebelled and they had let him go his own way. He and Ursula found each other and they explored the world together – hippies, sleeping on beaches and in caves.

As I heard one of the brothers explain later “The business was better off without Mick. He was philanthropic in the extreme. There were countless times when he found some jobless, homeless beggar in a bar. Pretty soon he employed them and they showed up, usually hung-over, at the factory the next day.


Months turned into years and our friendship became deep and comfortable. Yet, Mick rarely entered our house – not even to use the toilet. Indeed, he preferred disappearing into the bushes – which I found a little disconcerting.


A stately English lady lived in our community – ‘old’ money, well educated, thick white coiffed hair and spoke with a plumb in her mouth. (to use an expression.) She advertised in our local paper for partners with whom she could play scrabble. Who should reply but Mick. After she discovered that I knew Mick she said “He is the only one who has ever consistently beaten me…but I think he is a little odd.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Well we were deep in conversation one day when he excused himself to use my toilet facilities. Without a hesitation in what he was saying, he walked down the hallway, urinated noisily into the toilet and never shut the door or stopped speaking.”

I suppressed a giggle. That was our Mick!


And then there was the Dinosaur. When he first told me that he spent his vacation looking for a dinosaur I thought he was joking. But he assured me he was serious. Not bones, but a real live dinosaur.  In fact, he was so serious that he was about to sell his property and head to the wilds of New Guinea to look for that dinosaur in earnest. But I will leave that for the next episode.



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lee
    Apr 01, 2014 @ 01:15:58

    Mick should have just come here to my cabin…he’d find a dinosaur in residence!

    A lovely tale, June. Coincidentally, at this moment (well, not literally at this moment) I’m in the midst of writing a story to post on my blog – and it’s about a special young man I met when I was living on Newry Island.

    It’s always wonderful…and memorable…to meet special people. I feel fortunate that I’ve met quite a few so far in my lifetime. I hope the trend continues… 🙂


    • June Collins
      Apr 01, 2014 @ 02:05:35

      Lee, I believe that we are MEANT to meet certain people. Thankfully, many terrific ones seem to have crossed my path. AND, apparently yours. You and I should meet one day. Should have done it while A. was here.


  2. Lee
    Apr 01, 2014 @ 08:07:18

    Yes – we should meet up for a coffee and a chat one day, June. We’ve probably passed each other in the supermarket aisles and not realised it. 🙂


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